November 15, 2011 • 5:42 pm

With the Leveson Inquiry hearings beginning yesterday, the polling group, YouGov released the results of a timely survey on the public’s attitude towards the media.

The survey was commissioned by the US public broadcasting organisation PBS, who have recently launched a service in the UK.

However newspapers seeking comfort in its findings will have been disappointed. The survey found that newspapers and magazines were the least trusted of all the media outlets.

While 64 per cent of adults thought that television was trustworthy, only 38 per cent said the same for newspapers and a quarter did for magazines.

Interestingly in the context of the Leveson Inquiry, the broadcast media is regulated by Ofcom, a statutory system, while the Press Complaints Commission operates under a self-regulation model.

However trust in the media in general was very low, with nearly three quarters (74 per cent) reporting that they thought that the media sometimes or frequently lied to their audiences.

UK and US attitudes towards their domestic newspapers were roughly comparable, with slightly higher levels of trust in the US public. The US public was slightly more critical of UK newspapers than the UK public of US newspapers, with 21 per cent of US respondents categorising UK newspapers as untrustworthy compared to 16 per cent of UK respondents doing the same for US newspapers.

These findings are not unique: the British Social Attitudes Survey has been reporting low levels of trust in the media for many years, suggesting that the problem is not a new one that has simply emerged in response to the hacking scandal.

Full Fact has consistently argued that people can only reasonably be expected to place trust in public institutions if they are able to independently check the information with which they are presented.

Too often, this still proves to be an insurmountable obstacle, but we are working to ensure the media takes the issue of accuracy seriously, and gives audiences many more reasons to place their trust in this important pillar of our society.

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